Cuno on the Getty’s New Acquisition Policy

“I have argued against the laws, but I haven’t broken the laws.”

So says James Cuno in Jason Felch’s report on the new Getty president and chief executive:

Cuno’s awkward embrace of a point of view he has long criticized creates a potential stumbling block for the Getty, which today relies heavily on cooperative relationships with Italy and other nations Cuno has openly criticized.
As director of the Chicago Art Institute since 2004, Cuno has rarely had to wrestle with claims by other countries that certain antiquities belong to them and not the museum that acquired them. The position Cuno staked out is largely a philosophical one, embracing the concept of “cosmopolitanism” — that antiquities are the common heritage of mankind and not the property of one nation.
He has denounced what he considers politicized claims by modern nations like Italy that, in his view, have only weak ties to the ancient civilizations that once occupied the same land.
Cuno’s arguments are perhaps the clearest articulation of a view that American museum officials used for decades to justify the acquisition of antiquities with no clear ownership record. That practice has largely ended as direct evidence of looting forced leading museums, collectors and dealers to return hundreds of objects to Italy and Greece in recent years.
Yet while many museums moderated their stances during that controversy, Cuno became more outspoken.
“Cultural property is a modern political construct,” he said in a 2006 debate at the New School hosted by the New York Times. In March of this year, he described laws that give foreign governments ownership over ancient art found within their borders as “not only wrong, it is dangerous.”

You can read the Getty’s acquisition policy here:

Not much room for acquiring illegally-acquired objects

  1. Jason Felch, James Cuno’s history of acquiring ancient art –, L.A. Times, May 12, 2011,,0,7395453,full.story (last visited May 12, 2011).

Art Theft at the Forbidden City

Seven works of art have been stolen from the Palace Museum inside the Forbidden City in Beijing. The items were stolen when the thief may have knocked a hole in the wall:

This will be an embarrassment for those who run the Palace Museum. 
One official has already said that there was a lapse in security. 
“Certainly we can only blame the fact that our work was not thorough enough if something like this can happen,” said official Feng Nai’en at a news conference. 
An investigation has begun to see where improvements can be made and the museum is checking to see if any other objects have been taken. 
Perhaps more embarrassing though is the fact that these items were on loan from Liangyicang, a private collection in Hong Kong. 
The Beijing News reported that the Hong Kong museum had not insured the items for as much as it could have because it believed they would be safe in Beijing. 
The Palace Museum is based within the Forbidden City, home to the country’s emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties. 
The complex is made up of courtyards, palaces and gardens. It became a museum in 1921 after the fall of the last emperor Puyi a decade earlier.
  1. Michael Bristow, Rare theft from Forbidden City, BBC, May 11, 2011, (last visited May 12, 2011).

ARPA Research Assistance

Carolyn Shelbourn at the School of Law at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom is looking for information on offences under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979.    You can find
out some more about her and her research here:

She would welcome information on any ARPA cases, but is particularly keen to contact archaeologists who have been involved  following an ARPA offence, so that she can compare their experience with that of archaeologists in England. All information will be treated in confidence and individual respondents will not be identified unless you give her express permission to do so.

She has the following questions:

(a)     Your name
(b)     Occupation
(c)     Have you attended any training course on ARPA and its enforcement and if so what was this training?
(d)     Contact details if you are happy for me to contact you for more information

(a) What kind of site was involved?
(b) What was the nature of the ARPA offence?

(a) Was evidence taken from the scene of the offence?
(b) Who collected this evidence?
(c) What kind of evidence was collected?

(a) Was the offender prosecuted?
(b) Was a civil penalty sought?

(a) Did you  or a colleague write a statement of archaeological value?
(b) Did you or a colleague  give evidence in person at the hearing?
(c) Did you receive assistance in preparing for this  appearance and if so what was this and  who gave it?
(d) Did you feel confident/well prepared when giving evidence?

What was the outcome of the proceedings?
(a) Conviction?
(b) If yes what was the sentence imposed?
(c) Civil penalty?
(d) If so what was the sentence imposed?
(e) Forfeiture?
(f) Other penalty?


Her e-mail address is Please put ‘ARPA
questionnaire’ as the subject of the e-mail.

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Book Contributors Wanted

I’m currently working with a co-editor gathering authors for an edited volume examining legal and enforcement efforts from various localities. The chapters themselves will discuss specific thefts, instances of looting, and crimes and examine the laws at work.  The book will include the legal framework, but also be accessible to non-lawyers.  Chapters will be written in a fluid, accessible style so that they may be understood by readers from a variety of professional and academic backgrounds, not exclusive to law.  The chapters will give practical guidance and present a starting point for interested readers, scholars and lawmakers to combat heritage crime.  Citations and footnotes should provide specialized readers with further information that may not be necessary to readers from other fields.  Each chapter will be 3000-7000 words in length, excluding citations and bibliography, and should will contain a bibliography for further reading and thorough citations that will be useful as reference points.  

I am particularly interested in getting authors from Africa, South America or Asia to contribute their expertise. 

If you are interested, or know an expert who might be, please email me at derek.fincham “at”

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Hawass Resigns

Kate Taylor of the New York Times is reporting that Zahi Hawass has resigned:

After Egypt’s prime minister resigned on Thursday and the army asked his replacement to form a caretaker cabinet, Zahi Hawass, Egypt’s powerful and controversial antiquities chief, said he would not be part of the new government. His comments came after he posted on his Web site for the first time a list of dozens of sites that have been looted since the beginning of the uprising that led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.

Reached by telephone Mr. Hawass, a member of the previous cabinet, said he was happy that he had made the “right decision” and lashed out at colleagues who have criticized him, including one who has accused him of smuggling antiquities.

Egyptian Antiquities Chief Resigns –

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Unrest Near Egyptian Museum

If you are following the live feed on al-jazeera, you’ll see that there is still a great deal of unrest near the Egyptian museum:

Petrol bombs were thrown in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Wednesday, a Reuters witness said. An Egyptologist said some had landed in the gardens of a museum housing the world’s greatest collection of Pharaonic treasures.

The Egyptian museum itself however was unscathed.

The Egyptologist, who had been in contact with Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said it seemed the petrol bombs were being thrown by protesters demonstrating in favour of President Hosni Mubarak.

“So far the museum is safe, but we don’t know what’s going to happen, because the Mubarak supporters are out of control,” the Egyptologist, who declined to be identified, added.

. . .

The army moved to extinguish the flames, a source from the Ministry of Defence told Reuters. Army fire engines were called to the scene to ensure that fire did no damage to “army property”, the source said.

Petrol bombs thrown at protest near Egypt Museum | Reuters

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Army Protecting Museum in Egypt according to state TV

Army units secured the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo against possible looting on Friday, protecting a building with spectacular pharaonic treasures such as the death mask of the boy king Tutankhamun, state TV said.

The news follows a day of violent anti-government protests in Cairo and other cities. Some of the most violent scenes in four days of protests have been in squares and streets close to the museum building.

It was also broadcast as reports of looting of some government buildings emerged. One Reuters photographer said looters had broken into a ruling party building near the museum and were walking out with furniture, computers and other items.

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Friday Diversion: Eating in Amelia

I’m receiving a handful of questions each day from folks interested in attending the MA program in Amelia this summer. One of the most common kinds of questions seeks information about the day-to-day during those three months of the program. For those folks, I strongly recommend a look at Catherine Sezgin’s recent series of posts on Amelia. Catherine graduated with the MA Certificate in 2009, and has gone on to do some super writing and research and in her spare time maintains ARCA’s Blog. Have a look:

  1. Profile of Amelia
  2. Punto di Vino
  3. La Misticanza
  4. Porcelli’s beats out Napoli Pizza

We have a really strong pool of applicants so far, but there is still space for more, so I do encourage you to submit an application, the deadline is January 21st.

Questions or Comments? Email me at

Eating in Amelia

One of my favorite things to think about. I’m receiving a handful of questions each day for folks interested in attending the MA program in Amelia this summer. One of the most common questions ask about the day-to-day during those three months. We have a really strong pool of applicants so far, but there is still space for more, so I do encourage you to submit an application, the deadline is January 21st. In the meantime on a Friday afternoon, I recommend Catherine Sezgin’s series of posts on Amelia. Catherine graduated with the MA Certificate in 2009, and has gone on to do some super writing and research and in her spare time maintains ARCA’s Blog. Have a look

  1. Profile of Amelia
  2. Punto di Vino
  3. La Misticanza